Today I was teaching my teachers-in-training about tests and assessments. In SE Asia, a lot of schools put it to the teachers to create all the assessments. There’s not a lot of MAP testing or similar type of standardized testing (which some may find refreshing).
Creating tests is about at the same level as students taking tests. It’s not fun. Sure, for a lot of us teachers we use the prescribed exams that publishers created for us. There are software programs in which you can select from a databank and use. They can be multiple choice, question and answers, open responses, and even graphs. It’s nice, but for me, making up my own tests seemed the better choice.
For one, I know my classroom better than the publishers. I know my kids better. Knowing what occurred (or didn’t occur) in the day to day activities of my lessons, I can tell what my students have been exposed to. The test should reflect that.
Secondly, going through the arduous task of creating a test gives me more of an appreciation for what was covered. It’s almost a self-reflection exercise. You recall various activities and students’ responses. As it turns out you identify some gaps or things that you could have done better. You end up adjusting your teaching habits.
Here is a rundown of how I approach creating my own tests:
Identify the content
You’ve covered a unit, chapter, or just a big ‘chunk’ of content. Now it’s time to measure how much was retained. Review the objectives that were used, the major concepts and accompanying details.
Select what type of activity will you use
In what format do you want to measure your students? There’s a lot of answers to that. Traditionally, you can do multiple choice, matching, or even True/False. I like to throw in there some question/answer problems. Here’s a question, now answer it. Students hate that. Also, there is a writing part I like to include. This could be an open response, a defend or refute question, or even an interpretation question. I like to give my students a chance to explain their answers.
Choose the content material you want to assess and make it
Pay careful attention to your wording. Pay attention not only to your questions, but also in the instructions you write. If doing multiple choice questions, choose the other options with intent. And if you find yourself with the mentality of trying to trick your students into putting wrong answers or making it difficult, then stop. Just stop. You’re trying to assess what they learned from you, not take revenge for various classroom behaviors.
Can your students finish this test in one class period or any other appropriate amount of time? You may be creating a lengthy test which may require longer time than your one hour class. Keep it realistic for your students.
Weight the grading for each part
How many points do you want to give per question? For question/answer questions I usually put at least 2 points each. That way if the student is close enough, but not totally correct I can award at least one point. Needless to say, writing portions of tests should have much more than that.
Make it look professional
Type it up nice and neat. Make it look like one of those tests the publishers created. Keep it aligned, orderly, in big enough font, and with enough space to work. Don’t do it on loose leaf paper and then photocopy it for your students (I’ve seen that happen).
Do it yourself!
Now try the exam yourself. See how you did, but also did you notice any red flags that could trip up your students? If so, change the wording or whatever it needs.
Think of the fast finishers
There will always be those handful of students that finish way ahead of the others. You can’t just let them sit there. Have an extra task for them to work on. When I began teaching, I gave students the option of doing homework from another class. After a few years I stopped that for a number of reasons. They don’t want to do any other work for you so they just prop open another textbook and then try to talk, get on their phones, or basically not do a lick of work. Also, I’ve seen some students rush through my test and do poorly because they didn’t do another class’s homework and, of course, it’s due after your class. Therefore, I have something ready and waiting. It could be a current event assignment or even a crossword puzzle game.
This isn’t the most technical process in which to create tests. There are other, more creative ways to assess our students too. However, it works for me. Like I said before, it’s also a time consuming endeavor. Sometimes I like to personalize it to my class by putting in some student’s name, some local place they know, or anything that could get a smile from them. It helps keep it on the fun side.